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Washington Wrap

Dotty Lynch, Beth Lester, Allison Davis, Lauren Glasser and Allen Alter from the CBS News Political and Campaign '04 Units have the latest from Washington and from the trail.

Thursday's Headlines:

* Poll Watch: Let the Tracking Begin

* Bush To One More Battleground Before St. Louis

* Kerry Goes to Mo.

* Edwards: Regis, The View and onto New Jersey

* DeLay Cautioned Again

Poll Watch: Let the Tracking Begin: With 26 days to go until Election Day, the tracking polls, and the breathless reporting of them, have begun. The tracking polls, perhaps not surprisingly, show a tight race.

Bush-Cheney 46
Kerry-Edwards 44
Nader-Camejo 1.8
Undecided 8
Tracking poll conducted October 4 through 6 among 1,217 likely voters, margin of error plus or minus 2.9 percent.

ABC News
Bush-Cheney 49
Kerry-Edwards 47
Nader-Camejo 1
Undecided (not reported)
Tracking poll conducted October 3 through 5 among 1,155 likely voters, margin of error plus or minus 3 percent.

In the states, there is slightly different evidence. Some battlegrounds still appear close while others appear to be moving in one direction.

Arizona Republic
Bush-Cheney 48
Kerry-Edwards 38
Nader-Camejo (not reported)
Undecided (not reported)
Poll conducted October 2 through 4 among 602 likely voters, margin of error plus or minus 4 percent

Bush-Cheney 48
Kerry-Edwards 44
Nader-Camejo 2
Undecided 5
Poll conducted October 4 through 5 among 625 likely voters, margin of error plus or minus 4 percent.

Bush-Cheney 41
Kerry-Edwards 48
Nader-Camejo 3
Undecided 8
Poll conducted September 30 through October 4 among 594 registered voters, margin of error plus or minus 4 percent.

Bush Hits One More Battleground Before St Louis: CBS News' Mark Knoller reports:

Knoller Nugget: The president is spending Thursday morning at the White House and then departs on a campaign trip that will keep him on the road for at least nine days. First stop is Wisconsin, a state he lost in 2000 by the third narrowest margin of the election, just over 2/10ths of one percent of the vote. Thursday marks his 16th visit to the state since taking office and the eighth this year. He'll be holding a GOP victory rally in a park in Wausau.

Then it is off to St. Louis, site of Friday night's second debate with John Kerry. Mr. Bush will have a little over 24 hours for some final debate prep. The verbal clash will follow a town meeting format in which members of the audience ask questions.

Just how worried is the Bush campaign about the second debate? Nothing reflects the depth of political anxiety at the White House more than the level of high-voltage attacks delivered by the president Wednesday against his opponent.

The Bush campaign may not have hit the panic button yet, but the protective cover has been unlocked. Looking to retake ground lost to Kerry in the first debate, President Bush fired off a barrage of new and/or more pointed swipes, slams and barbs at his rival.

In campaign speeches in Pennsylvania and Michigan, Mr. Bush was harsher than ever. He said, among other things, "My opponent is a tax and spend liberal. I`m a compassionate conservative; …. my opponent's proposal would be the largest expansion of government-run health care ever. And when the government pays the bills, the government makes the rules."

The president also had these lines: "Kerry has earned a special distinction. The National Journal named him the most liberal member of the Senate. And when the competition includes Ted Kennedy, that's really saying something; …. In the debate, my opponent came down on every side of the war. He stated that Saddam Hussein was a threat - and that America had no business removing that threat … my opponent offers an agenda that is stuck in the thinking and the policies of the past; … On national security - he offers the defensive mindset of September the 10th; … Kerry has a strategy of retreat in Iraq…. my opponent has a 20-year history of weakness in the Senate; … Here at home he offers an agenda of more taxes and more spending and more litigation and more government control over your life."

And in his first public reference to the grimaces Mr. Bush made during the first debate, he blamed them on Kerry. The President offered a long list of the many issues on which he charged Kerry took conflicting stands and said: "You hear all that and you can understand why somebody would make a face."

Although Bush did go after Kerry, in neither of his speeches Wednesday did the president mention a word about the Iraq WMD report produced for the CIA by U.S. weapons inspector Charles Duelfer But Mr. Bush stands by his decision to invade Iraq and oust Saddam's regime. Mr. Bush said Thursday that Saddam wanted to develop weapons and, if America waits till a threat is at its doorstep, it might be too late to save lives.

Kerry Moves to Missouri: Camp Kerry travels from Colorado to St. Louis, Mo., late Thursday afternoon. Kerry will have a press avail on Iraq on Thursday afternoon and will be seen again on Thursday night in an interview on BET. The campaign also has a new ad featuring actor Michael J. Fox talking about stem cell research.

Cheney Works the Sunshine State: Vice President Cheney stays in Florida for another day where he does a town hall in Miami and a roundtable (w/Lynne Cheney) in Fort Meyers before returning to D.C. on Thursday night. CBS News' Josh Gross reports:

Trail Byte: Vice President Cheney, sitting on a high stool next to his wife Lynne, began the day Thursday with a town hall meeting in Miami. It was a typical campaign event except for a pair of protestors who managed to get into the well orchestrated event.

One of the 20-something women stood on a chair and demanded to ask a question, as chants of "four more years" drowned her out. Before being escorted out, she managed to say she was a Nader supporter and opposed Cheney's ties to Halliburton. The vice president watched the action from stage before advising the crowd, "treat them with kindness, maybe we can convert them."

At a town hall meeting on Wednesday, a concerned supporter inquired about Cheney's health. Critics (if they had done enough leg work to earn a ticket to the event by volunteering for the Bush/Cheney campaign) would probably have been more curious about his memory.

The vice president's claim that he hadn't met John Edwards before the debate Tuesday night was one of the more memorable moments of the event. The Edwards camp was quick to point out that the two had met twice before and media outlets began airing video of the two sitting together at a prayer breakfast several years back.

Regardless, Cheney is sticking to his story. "The vice president has no recollection of meeting Sen. Edwards," a campaign spokesperson explained. The point of the comment was to demonstrate the notion that Edwards does not have a distinguished record as a lawmaker.

The responose of the vice president's wife, Lynne Cheney, to the issue could be described more as mocking than disagreeable. "The Edwards people have been scrambling around ever since trying to come up with places where the Cheneys and Edwards might have crossed paths," she said at the same town hall meeting. "Now, I know all of us will agree it is a really good thing to go to prayer breakfasts, but don't you think the senator ought to go to the Senate once in a while," she retorted.

All this fits the pattern of the vice president not referring to his own participation in the debate, much less mentioning the event at all. That responsibility has fallen to his wife, who has accompanied him on most of his campaign events over the last few months.

Prior to most campaign stops, Mrs. Cheney will offer a short anecdote about her relationship with the vice president before he entered the political arena. However, since Tuesday night she's been acting as his number one debate cheerleader. "It was so much fun, that debate last night. It was just thrilling to watch," she said before a round table discussion in Gainesville, Fla. "And we had a great rally afterwards, and that was just so energizing, too. And what I've had fun doing today is reading some of the comments from pundits." She proceeded to read five positive reviews of her husband's debate performance from a variety of media personalities.

Just because the vice president lets his wife handle the debate critiques, it doesn't mean he's above assisting in her efforts. During a recap of the best Cheney zingers of the debate in Cleveland, the vice president helped her through some stumbles.

"This was when, oh I love this, this was when the vice president was talking about John Edwards, how did you put it? 'Undistinguished record in the Senate?'" she said to her husband for the entire crowd to hear. "He's missed 70 percent of the public meetings of the Intelligence Committee. He has one of the worst attendance records in the Senate. What am I forgetting here?" she confusingly asked herself, referring to her notes. The vice president leaned over and whispered for only her to hear.

"Oh, he has missed so many votes in the Senate, he has such a poor attendance record in the Senate, his hometown newspaper is calling him 'Senator Gone.' Yeah," she finished to the delight of the crowd.

Edwards: Regis, The View and On To Jersey: John Edwards makes the rounds in the New York metro area on Thursday. He appears on the Regis and Kelly show and "The View." He then crosses the river to Bayonne, N.J., for a "homeland security" town hall event and a closed fundraising dinner (print reporters only) before spending the night in Weehawken. CBS News' Bonney Kapp reports:

Trail Byte: John Edwards did the morning talk circuit in New York on Thursday, first dropping in on Regis and Kelly and then, together with Mrs. Edwards, appearing on "The View."

The senator later heads back to New Jersey for a town hall and an evening fundraiser. The campaign strongly maintains that N.J. is not a battleground state. They have more staff in North Carolina than New Jersey, they argued.

On Wednesday, Edwards returned to Florida for a rally in West Palm Beach, "ground zero" in the outcome of the election, as he described the Sunshine State (the senator used the same words in his late night rally in Ohio the previous night).

Edwards pounced on Cheney's gaffe at Tuesday's debate when the vice president noted it was their first encounter despite having met twice previously. Recounting their first meeting at a 2001 prayer breakfast, Edwards concluded, "I'll tell you one thing I'm sure of: he won't forget we were there last night."

It's more than a memory lapse according to the Democrats. "This struggle with the truth is not just about whether we'd met before. They struggle on the most basic issues facing America today," Edwards said before criticizing the administration on the "mess" in Iraq and accusing the President of delivering the "same old tired ideas" in his speech on the economy and terrorism.

Edwards delivered a statement following the rally, reiterating much of what he said at the event where a technical problem rendered much of the video unusable. Edwards also noted the new CIA report saying there are no WMDs in Iraq, declaring Bush and Cheney "are in a complete state of denial about what's happening in Iraq."

When a reporter asked who won the debate Tuesday night, Edwards began, "The American people won last night..." As the reporter shook her head, Edwards stopped and joked, "Don't shake your head at me!"

"Don't dodge your question," the reporter shot back to good natured laughs.

Edwards concluded, "I think the American people are now seeing there's a real difference between George Bush and Dick Cheney and John Kerry and John Edwards," innocuously adding, "We're going to tell the American people the truth and we're going to lay out our plan to make things better."

Despite polls showing a strong Bush lead in North Carolina, Edwards returned to his home state for a rally in Greensboro, where Elizabeth Edwards introduced her husband. "I understand that today that Lynne Cheney is going around doing rallies and what she's saying is her favorite moments of the debate," Mrs. Edwards said, joining the chorus of debate commentators.

"My favorite moment of the debate was probably one of the very first things that my husband said to the Vice President of the United States. When he turned to him and said that he now had to face the facts, that he was not telling the American public the truth," she continued.

DeLay Must Have Sore Knuckles: House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Tex. is being cautioned by the House Ethics Committee for the second time in six days, reports the Washington Post. DeLay is under scrutiny for attempting to have the Federal Aviation Administration track down an airplane flying Democratic legislators who left Texas to avoid passing a controversial redistricting plan and for behavior suggestive of fiscal foul play (allowing donations to manipulate legislative action). House rules do not allow Members to take "any official action on the basis of the partisan affiliation of the individuals involved," according to the Ethics report, thus DeLay's actions are being called into question.

The ethics complaint was originally brought by Democrat Chris Bell of Texas, whose seat was one of those redistricted. Edwin R. Bethune, a former Representative from Arkansas and DeLay's lawyer, claims that the charges are not that serious. But some analysts caution that another reproach could critically endanger DeLay's political career and his ability to resume leadership over the Republican House majority.

Members of activist groups are calling for DeLay to resign his position in the House. Executive Director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington Melanie Sloan, feels that DeLay's conduct should be chastised. "If the Republican Conference wants the American people to believe that it takes ethics seriously, it must insist that Mr. DeLay resign his post as majority leader," Sloan told the Post.

According to the ethics report, lawmakers cannot ask for political donations "that may create even an appearance" of leading to "special treatment or special access to the member." DeLay broke that rule when he participated in Westar Energy Inc.'s 2002 golf fundraiser, which was sponsored to raise funds for DeLay's own political agenda. Westar Energy is also the company responsible for allegedly "donating" $56,500 in campaign contributions to DeLay and other Republicans in exchange for "a seat at the table" where significant legislation was being outlined.

The Committee on Standards of Official Conduct postponed action on the third DeLay offense, attempted collection of corporate funds for Texan legislative elections.

Quote of the Day: "A male dog named Kim and, worse yet, it's spelled C-Y-M? I mean, that's just not going to play in swing states." --"All the Presidents' Pets," author Mo Rocca, on JOhn Kerry's dog. (Detroit Free Press)

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